A New Day…

13 Feb

After a night of thinking and staring at a tv, I wake up late at a little after 8.15. There is a lot of time to sit and think here and just as much to watch the tube. I stopped being a tv man shortly after my problems with the regulator began. Life’s for living, I embrace that mantra, getting re-acquainted to society’s modern opium hasn’t taken long though. A bit of Jack Dee and Luthar fortify my cell from beyond the door.

Last night, there was a lot of door banging, those faces obscured by hoods your mother would cross the road to avoid; well they’re here and they miss their own. No-one is going to answer your door and over pressed panic alarm buttons inside your pad, are very possibly only there for visual effect. Red-lights flashing outside cell doors, are ignored for hour after hour. The concept of ‘duty of care’ is not widely embraced here at Wandsworth.

Chains rattle again, the jingle nearer every second, expectantly like a dog we look toward the door; it’s opened and morning light floods in:

“Medication!?” Is barked at us.

“What medication?” I ask.

The door slams back shut.

Each morning the cell doors are unlocked for ‘medication’. This is the large percentage of inmates who are following a program of Heroin withdrawal. Their medication is Methadone or Subutex. I’ve never heard of the latter but it is dispensed in a small white cup with a shot of green liquid. The ‘Methadonians’ as I hear one screw refer to them, trudge along to a dispensary at the end of each landing and are served through a barred door. They are made to consume their drugs there and then must return back to their cell.

The reason for the above is some will sell their own medication to others. This approach doesn’t stop those who preserve it in their mouth, only to spit it back out when they get back to the relative privacy of their cell. Those with tablets, do the very same. I don’t know the going rate, nor do I know why someone becomes a buyer for this junk; but I can hazard a guess.

Alex tells me that this stuff is exactly the same as that which it replaces. Posing the riposte to the argument of de-criminalising heroin etc; haven’t we already done it?


I hear an escalation of sound as some activity is brewing, the ‘clunk-click’ of tens of steel locks tell me its Association time.

Alex, a veteran of jail by now, tells me to grab a shower before it gets filthy and before I can’t again. It’s already hot this morning, outside there’s a summer breeze I’ll not know but in here there’s an extra few degrees that no sooner do you wash the prison off your skin, a layer of grime is waiting to take its place. From sweat soaked clothes to sweat soaked clothes, it might be an idea to shower fully dressed.

I grab my towel and prison bar of soap ‘Buttermilk’, I wonder what I’ll do if I drop it? I didn’t get  a rope with this one….

I don’t have a bar of soap but I’m entitled to laugh.

On arrival I was loaded up with sachets of coconut smelling hair and body gel, so clutching 2 or 3 of these, my flip-flops and that front-on middle distant gaze, I slink into the shower room. It’s not busy, I’m surprised, you’d think others would be desperate to maintain a sense of sanitary dignity. Maybe they all believe the rumours of prison showers, maybe most of the guys here all have the same insecurities and same concerns as one another. Some others come into the room now, quick nervous glances dart around from all. There is a lot of Poles and Russians here, I detect a language not my own and can’t help noticing they shower with their underwear on. Suddenly I feel very conscious, am I doing the wrong thing? Am I now, one of those shower stalkers that they’ve only read about in books and seen in films? After a game of rugby if I or one of the lads showered in his boxers, you’d be laughed at – I’m not the odd one here, who showers in their pants!?

I notice I’ve spent a long time talking about a shower scene and probably shouldn’t refer to it as a: .

‘Shower Scene’

I finish up and walk the short distance back to my cell. Alex calls out:

“You might want to wait a minute”

A silhouette of a man sat down is etched upon our bedsheet/curtain divider. I ask him to open the window but I don’t hold out hope, not unless he has an angle grinder.

“Its okay, I’ll burn some incense.” Says Alex

Its not okay but it will do. 🙂

It seems stupid but I felt buoyant, I’d only had a shower but I’ve walked a prison landing and faced a fear. It wasn’t what it was cracked up to be, if I can use the phones now without having a tear-up, I’ve had a productive day inside.

Others on the landing, are hanging in gangs. The Russians, the Poles, Romanians, JaFake-ans (Kids from London but mimic Jamaican) and the Muslim Brothers. Each one is drawn to a crowd for the obvious protection it affords, I wonder if there’s a crew for me? Not seen many in Lewin shirts and Saville Row Whistles.

I get changed and scurry through my paperwork. I kept a list of numbers and addresses printed onto A4 in my holdall and now grab it so I can use the phone. Prisoners are issued with a pin code, mine’s: 37994495, (And its empty if anyone sends it in! 🙂 ) this stops the obvious trade in phone cards. Instead, weekly you enter how much you wish put onto your phone account from your ‘spends’ account. I’ve only got the £2 I received when I wound up here but it will do me fine for now.

The phones are located at the ends of a landing, mine has 2, but the stairs to the next level are ungated, so I head up to use those seeing as they’re free. A bit of common sense gets you far here, at least until you have to deal with screws. I pick the handset up, type in home and add the pin code. My mum answers, it’s a f***in relief.


One Response to “A New Day…”

  1. Lisa Denmark February 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    This really has me gripped! You have a definite talent for writing!

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